It's been a long time since I caught up with Phryne and her household of adopted daughters, faithful retainer, dedicated companion, cook and exotic lover. Part of the reason for that was the feeling that it was all a little same old same old. What I did find with MURDER ON A MIDSUMMER NIGHT is that sometimes a short visit with old friends is just plain good fun.
If you're going to live in the 1920's in Melbourne, in the middle of a heatwave you'd be quite comfortable if you had Phryne's life. You'd be less happy if you were an aspiring antique dealer and purveyor of high class junk whose body was found in the water at St Kilda beach. His mother simply does not accept suicide and Phryne, and her entire crime-busting household must prove that his death was anything but. Meanwhile Phyrne is also called upon to resolve an old mystery for the family of a recently deceased mother - is there an illegitimate child from before her marriage?
The mysteries that occupy Phryne's time in this book are interesting, and there are little snippets of investigative technique that sit well within the period of the book (such as working out the contents of the lungs of a drowning victim). Luckily that timeframe makes any odd procedural elements just not an issue. Of course, most of the investigating seems to be done by Phryne swanning around parties and such-like, getting people to talk to her, although Dot - her faithful companion is not above donning her good hat and heading out for some fact checking and tree shaking. Perhaps that's one of the strengths of these books now - there's more of an ensemble cast, all of whom have their roles and the story seems more multi-layered because of it. There's also those lovely little reminders of time gone by. Alas the idea of a block of ice and a fan somehow being old fashioned just made this reader feel desperately old as that was a well known trick when we were children (albeit we needed to be ill for it to be called into play). Now if there's 1 or 2 people left out there who haven't read these books, Phryne's sex life is a tiny bit risqué - not so that you'd notice these days - but it's still a little titbit that gives the books that little extra.
The Phryne Fisher books are undoubtedly highly entertaining, lovely little pieces of fun wrapped up in a mystery and an idyllic lifestyle. This isn't a series that I work at keeping up with - and I have missed a lot of books in the middle which one day I will try and catch up with, but it is nice to know they are out there waiting. For readers who are looking for something fun, light and just a little bit saucy, MURDER ON A MIDSUMMER NIGHT would be a wonderful way to spend some time.